Fernando de Talavera thought even these concessions
too considerable, but, while he exercised his sacred office
with a high authority, he too well knew the character of
Isabella to presume to dispute an order she had once issued,
although it was in her own mild and feminine manner.
After receiving a few more instructions, therefore, and ob
taining the counsel of the king, who was at work in an
adjoining cabinet, the prelate went to execute this new com
Two or three days now passed before the subject was
finally disposed of, and Isabella was again seated in the
domestic circle, when admission was once more demanded
in behalf of her confessor. The archbishop entered with
a flushed face, and his whole appearance was so disturbed
that it must have been observed by the most indifferent
"How now, holy archbishop," demanded Isabella
u doth thy new flock vex thy spirit, and is it so very hard
to deal with an infidel ?"
" 'T is nought of that, Senora 't is nought relating to
my new people. I find even the followers of the false pro
phet more reasonable than some whb exult in Christ's name
HO MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
give te the sovereigns an empire that will far exceed in
value all their other possessions, and I claim my reward. I
tell you, moreover, reverend prelate, that there is much in
reserve, and that these conditions will be needed to fulfil
" These are truly modest proposals for a nameless Ge
noese !" exclaimed one of the courtiers, who had been gra
dually swelling with disgust and contempt. " The Senor
Colon will be certain of commanding in the service of their
Highnesses, and if nothing is done he will have that high
honour without cost ; whereas, should this most improbable
scheme lead to any benefits, he will become a vice-king,
humbly contenting himself with the church's revenue !"
. This remark appeared to determine the wavering, and
the commissioners rose, in a body, as if the matter were
thought to be unworthy of further discussion. With the
view to preserve at least the appearance of impartiality and
discretion, however, the archbishop turned once more to
ward Columbus, and now, certain of obtaining his ends, he
spoke to him in milder tones.
"For the last time, Senor," he said, " I ask if you still
insist on these unheard-of terms?"
" On them and on no other," said Columbus, firmly. " I
know the magnitude of the services 1 shall perform, and
will not degrade them, will in no manner lessen their dig
nity, by accepting aught else. But, Lord Archbishop, and
you, too, noble Senor, that treatetb my claims so lightly, I
am ready to add to the risk of person, life and name, that
of gold. I will furnish one-eighth of the needful sums, if
ye will increase my benefits in that proportion."
"Enough enough," returned the prelate, preparing to
quit the room ; " we will make our report to the sovereigns,
this instant, and thou shalt speedily know their pleasure."
Thus terminated the conference. The courtiers left the
room, conversing earnestly among themselves, like men
who did not care to repress their indignation; while Co
lumbus, filled \vith the noble character of his own designs,
disappeared in another direction, with the bearing of one
whose self-respect was not to be lessened by clamour, and
who appreciated ignorance and narrowness of views too
justly to suffer them to change his own high purposes.
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. Ill
Ferdinand of Talavera was as good as his word. He
was the queen's confessor, and, in virtue of that holy office,
had at all times access to her presence. Full of the subject
of the late interview, he took his way directly to the private
apartments of the queen, and, as a matter of course, was
at once admitted. Isabella heard his representations with
mortification and regret, for she had begun to set her heart
on the sailing of this extraordinary expedition. But the
influence of the archbishop was very great, for his royal
penitent knew the sincerity and devotedness of his heart.
" This carrieth presumption to insolence, Senora," con
tinued the irritated churchman : " have we not here a men
dicant adventurer demanding honours and authority that
belong only to God and his anointed, the princes of the
earth? Who is this Colon? a nameless Genoese, without
rank, services, or modesty, and yet doth he carry his pre
tensions to a height that might cause even a Guzman to
" He is a good Christian, holy prelate," Isabella meekly
answered, " and seemeth to delight in the service and glory
of God, and to wish to favour the extension of his visible
and Catholic church."
" True, Senora, and yet may there be deceit in this"
" Nay, Lord Archbishop, I do not think that deceit is the
man's failing, for franker speech and more manly bearing
it is not usual to see, even in the most powerful. He hath
solicited us for years, and yet no act of meanness may be
fairly laid to his charge."
" I shall not judge the heart of this man harshly, Dona
Isabella, but we may judge of his actions and his preten
sions, and how far they may be suitable to the dignity of
the two crowns, freely and without censure. I confess him
grave, and plausible, and light of neither discourse nor
manner, virtues certainly as the world moveth in courts"
Isabella smiled, but she said nothing, for her ghostly
counsellor was wont to rebuke with freedom, and she to
listen with humility "where the age is not exhibiting its
purest models of sobriety of thought and devotion, but even
these may exist without the spirit that shall be fitted for
heaven. But what are gravity and decorum, if sustained
by an inflated pride, and inordinate rapacity ? ambition
114 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
and favour. This Colon is a madman, and better fitted to
become a saint in Mussulmans*- eyes, than even a pilot in
Your Highness's service."
At this burst of indignation, the queen, the Marchioness
of Moya, and Dona Mercedes de Valverde, simultaneously
dropped their needle-work, and sate looking at the prelate,
with a common concern. They had all hoped that the dif
ficulties which stood in the way of a favourable termination
to the negotiation would be removed, and that the time was
at hand, when the being who, in spite of the boldness and
unusual character of his projects, had succeeded in so sig
nally commanding their respect, and in interesting their
feelings, was about to depart, and to furnish a practical so
lution to problems that had as much puzzled their reasons
as they had excited their curiosity. But here was some
thing like a sudden and unlooked-for termination to all their
expectations ; and while Mercedes felt something like des
pair chilling her heart, the queen and Dona Beatriz were
"Didst thou duly explain to the Senor Colon, the nature
of our proposals, Lord Archbishop ?" the former asked,
with more severity of manner than she was accustomed to
betray ; " and doth he still insist on the pretensions to a
vice-regal power, and on the offensive condition in behalf
of his posterity ?"
"Even so, Your Highness; were it Isabella of Cas
tile treating with Henry of England or Louis of France,
the starving Genoese could not hold higher terms or more
inflexible conditions. He abateth nothing. The man
deemeth himself chosen of God, to answer certain ends,
and his language and conditions are such as one who felt a
holy impulse to his course, could scarcely feel warranted in
" This, constancy hath its merit," observed the queen;
" but there is a limit to concession. I shall urge no more
in the navigator's favour, but leave him to the fortune that
naturally followeth self-exaltation and all extravagance of
This speech apparently sealed the fate of Columbus in
Castile. The archbishop was appeased, and, first holding
a short private conference with his royal penitent, he
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 115
left the room. Shortly after, Christoval Colon, as he
was called by the Spaniards Columbus, as he styled him
self in later life received, for a definite answer, the in
formation that his conditions were rejected, and that the
negotiation for the projected voyage to the Indies was
finally at an end.
"Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour
I 've seen my fondest hopes decay ;
I never loved a tree or flower,
But 't was the first to fade away,."
THE season had now advanced to the first days of Fe
bruary, and, in that low latitude, the weather was becoming
genial and spring-like. On the morning succeeding that
of the interview just related, some six or eight individuals,
attracted by the loveliness of the day, and induced morally
by a higher motive, were assembled before the door of one
of those low dwellings of Santa Fe that had been erected
for the accommodation of the conquering army. Most of
these persons were grave Spaniards of a certain age, though
young Luis de Bobadilla was also there, and the tall, dig
nified form of Columbus was conspicuous in the group.
The latter was equipped for the road, and a stout, service
able Andalusian mule stood ready to receive its burthen,
near at hand. A charger was by the side of the mule,
showing that the rider of the last was about to have com
pany. Among the Spaniards were Alonzo de Quintanilla,
the accountant-general of Castile, a firm friend of the navi
gator, and Luis de St. Angel, the receiver of the eccle
siastical revenues of Aragon, who was one of the firmest
converts that Columbus had made to the philosophical ac-
116 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
curacy of his opinions and to the truth of his vast concep
The two last had been in earnest discourse with the na
vigator, but the discussion had closed, and Seiior de St.
Angel, a man of generous feelings and ardent imagination,
was jilst expressing himself warmly, in the following
" By the lustre of the two crowns !" he cried, " this ought
not to come to pass. But, adieu, Senor Colon God have
you in his holy keeping, and send you wiser and less preju
diced judges, hereafter. The past can only cause us shame
and grief, while the future is in the womb of time."
The whole party, with the exception of Luis de Boba-
dilla, then took their leave. As soon as the place was clear,
Columbus mounted, and passed through the thronged
streets, attended by the young noble on his charger. Not
a syllable was uttered by either, until they were fairly on
the plain, though Columbus often sighed, like a man op
pressed with grief. Still his mien was calm, his bearing
dignified, and his eye lighted with that unquenchable fire
which finds its fuel in the soul within.
When fairly without the gates, Columbus turned cour
teously to his young companion and thanked him for his
escort ; but, with a consideration for the other, that was
creditable to his heart, he added
" While I am so grateful for this honour, coming from
one so noble and full of hopes, I must not forget your own
character. Didst thou not remark, friend Luis, as we passed
through the streets, that divers Spaniards pointed at me,
as the object of scorn ?"
" I did, Senor," answered Luis, his cheek glowing with
indignation, " and had it not been that I dreaded your dis
pleasure, I would have trodden the vagabonds beneath my
horse's feet, failing of a lance to spit them on !"
" Thou hast acted most wisely in showing forbearance.
But these are men, and their common judgment maketh
public opinion ; not do I perceive that the birth, or the op
portunities, causeth material distinctions between them,
though the manner of expression vary. There are vulgar
among the noble, and noble among the lowly. This very
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 117
act of kindness of thine, will find its deriders and con-
temners in the court of the two sovereigns."
" Let him look to it, who presumeth to speak lightly of
you, Sefior, to Luis de Bobadilla ! We are not a patient
race, and Castilian blood is apt to be hot blood."
" I should be sorry that any man but myself should draw
in my quarrel. But, if we take ofTence at all who think
and speak folly, we may pass our days in harness. Let
the young nobles have their jest, if it give them pleasure
but do not let me regret my friendship for thee."
Luis promised fairly, and then, as if his truant thoughts
would revert to the subject unbidden, he hastily resumed
" You speak of the noble as of a class different from
your own surely, Senor Colon, thou art noble?"
" Would it make aught different in thy opinions and
feelings, young man, were I to answer no ?"
The cheek of Don Luis flushed, and, for an instant, he
repented of his remark ; but falling back on his own frank
and generous nature, he answered immediately, without
reservation or duplicity
" By San Pedro, my new patron ! I could wish you were
noble, Sefior. if it were merely for the honour of the class.
There are so many among us who do no credit to their
spurs, that we might gladly receive such an acquisition."
" This world is made up of changes, young Sefior," re
turned Columbus, smiling. " The seasons undergo their
changes ; night follows day ; comets come and go ; mon-
archs become subjects, and subjects monarchs , nobles lose
the knowledge of their descent, and plebeians rise to the
rank of nobles. There is a tradition among us, that we
were formerly of the privileged class ; but time and our
unlucky fortune have brought us down to humble employ
ments. Am I to lose the honour of Don Luis de Boba-
dilla's company in the great voyage, should I be more for
tunate in France than I have been in Castile, because his
commander happeneth to have lost the evidences of his
u That would be a most unworthy motive, Senor, and I
hasten to correct your mistake. As we are now about to
part for some time, I ask permission to lay bare my whole
118 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
soul to you. I confess that when first I heard of this voy
age, it struck me as a madman's scheme"
" Ah ! friend Luis," interrupted Columbus, with a melan
choly shake of the head, " this is the opinion of hut too
many ! I fear Don Ferdinand of Aragon, as well as that
stern prelate, his namesake, who hath lately disposed of
the question, thinketh in the same manner."
" 1 crave your pardon, Senor Colon, if I have uttered
aught to give you pain ; but if I have once done you injus
tice, I am ready enough to expiate the wrong, as you will
quickly see. Thinking thus, I entered into discourse with
you, -with a view to amuse myself with fancied ravings;
but, though no immediate change of opinion followed as to
the truth of the theory, I soon perceived that a great philo
sopher and profound reasoner had the matter in hand.
Here my judgment might have rested, and my opinion been
satisfied, but for a circumstance of deep moment to my
self. You must know, Senior, though come of the oldest
blood of Spain, and not without fair possessions, that I may
not always have answered the hopes of those who have
been charged with the care of my youth"
" This is unnecessary, noble sir"
" Nay, by St. Luke ! it shall be said. Now, I have two
great and engrossing passions, that sometimes interfere
with each other. The one is a love for rambling a burn
ing desire to see foreign lands, and this, too, in a free and
roving fashion with a disposition for the sea and the
doings of havens ; and the other is a love for Mercedes de
Valverde, the fairest, gentlest, most affectionate, warmest-
hearted, and truest maiden of Castile !"
" Noble, withal," put in Columbus, smiling.
" Senor," answered Luis, gravely, " I jest not concern
ing my guardian angel. She is not only noble, and every
way fitted to honour my name, but she hath the blood of
the Guzmans, themselves, in her veins. But I have lost
favour with others, if not with my lovely mistress, in yield
ing to this rambling inclination ; and even my own aunt,
who is her guardian, hath not looked smilingly on my smt.
Doria Isabella, whose word is law among all the noble vir
gins of the court, hath also her prejudices, and it hath be
come necessary to regain her good opinion, to win the Dona
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 119
Mercedes. It struck me" Luis was too manly to betray
his mistress by confessing that the thought was hers " it
struck me, that if my rambling tastes took the direction of
some noble enterprise, like this you urge, that what hath
been a demerit might be deemed a merit in the royal eyes,
which would be certain soon to draw all other eyes after
them. With this hope, then, I first entered into the present
intercourse, until the force of your arguments hath com
pleted my conversion, and now no churchman hath more
faith in the head of his religion, than I have that the shortest
road to Cathay is athwart the broad Atlantic ; or no Lom
bard is more persuaded that his Lombardy is flat, than I
feel convinced that this good earth of ours is a sphere."
" Speak reverently of the ministers of the altar, young
Senor," said Columbus, crossing himself, " for no levity
should be used in connection with their holy office. It
seemeth, then," he added, smiling, " I owe my disciple to
the two potent agents of love and reason ; the former, as
most potent, overcoming the first obstacles, and the latter
getting uppermost at the close of the affair, as is wont to
happen love, generally, triumphing in the onset, and rea
" I '11 not deny the potency of the power, Senor, for I feel
it too deeply to rebel against it. You now know my secret,
and when I have made you acquainted with my intentions,
all will be laid bare. I here solemnly vow" Don Luis
lifted his cap and looked to heaven, as he spoke " to join
you in this voyage, on due notice, sail from whence you
may, in whatever bark you shall choose, and whenever you
please. In doing this, I trust, first to serve God and his
church ; secondly, to visit Cathay and those distant and
wonderful lands ; and lastly, to win Dona Mercedes de Val-
" I accept the pledge, young sir," rejoined Columbus,
struck by his earnestness, and pleased with his sincerity
" though it might have been a more faithful representation
of your thoughts, had the order of the motives been re
" In a few months I shall be master of my own means,"
continued the youth, too intent on his own purposes to heed
what the navigator had said " and then, nothing but the
120 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
solemn command of Dona Isabella, herself, shall prevent
our having one caravel, at least ; and the coffers of Boba-
dilla must have been foully dealt by, during their master's
childhood, if they do not afford two. I am no subject of
Don Fernando's, but a servant of the elder branch of the
House of Trastamara ; and the cold judgment of the king,
even, shall not prevent it."
" This soundeth generously, and thy sentiments are such
as become a youthful and enterprising noble ; but the offer
cannot be accepted. It would not become Columbus to use
gold that came from so confiding a spirit and so inexpe
rienced a head ; and there are still greater obstacles than
this. My enterprise must rest on the support of some pow
erful prince. Even the Guzman hath not deemed himself
of sufficient authority to uphold a scheme so large. Did
we make the discoveries without that sanction, we should
be toiling for others, v/ithout security for ourselves, since the
Portuguese or some other monarch would wrong us of our
reward. That I am destined to effect this great work, I
feel, and it must be done in a manner suited to the majesty
of the thought and to the magnitude of the subject. And,
here, Don Luis, we must part. Should my suit be success
ful at the court of France, thou shalt hear from me, for I
ask no better than to be sustained by hearts and hands like
thine. Still, thou must not mar thy fortunes unheedingly,
and I am now a fallen man in Castile. It may not serve
thee a good turn, to be known to frequent my company any
longer and I again say, here we must part."
Luis de Bobadilla protested his indifference to what
others might think ; but the more experienced Columbus,
who rose so high above popular clamour in matters that
affected himself, felt a generous reluctance to permit this
confiding youth to sacrifice his hopes, to any friendly im
pressions in his own favour. The leave-taking was warm,
and the navigator felt a glow at his heart, as he witnessed
the sincere and honest emotions that the young man could
not repress at parting. They separated, however, about
half a league from the town, and each bent his way in his
own direction ; Don Luis de Bobadilla's heart swelling with
indignation at the unworthy treatment that there was, in
MERCEDES OF CASTILE, 121
sooth, so much reason for thinking his new friend had
Columbus journeyed on, with very different emotions.
Seven weary years had he been soliciting the monarchs
and nobles of Spain to aid him in his enterprise. In that
long period, how much of poverty, contempt, ridicule, and
even odium, had he not patiently encountered, rather than
abandon the slight hold that he had obtained on a few of
the more liberal and enlightened minds of the nation ! He
had toiled for bread while soliciting the great to aid them
selves in becoming still more powerful ; and each ray of
hope, however feeble, had been eagerly caught at with joy,
each disappointment borne with a constancy that none but
the most exalted spirit could sustain. But he was now re
quired to endure the most grievous of all his pains. The
recal of Isabella had awakened within him a confidence to
which he had long been a stranger ; and he awaited the
termination of the siege, with the calm dignity that became
his purpose, no less than his lofty philosophy. The
hour of leisure had come, and it produced a fatal destruc
tion to all his buoyant hopes. He had thought his motives
understood, his character appreciated, and his high objects
felt; but he now found himself still regarded as a visionary
projector, his intentions distrusted, and his promised ser
vices despised. In a word, the bright expectations that had
cheered his toil for years, had vanished in a day, and
the disappointment was alt the greater for the brief but de
lusive hopes produced by his recent favour.
It is not surprising, therefore, that, when left alone on
the highway, even the spirit of this extraordinary man
grew faint within him, and he had to look to the highest
power for succour. His head dropped upon his breast, and
one of those bitter moments occurred, in which the past and
the future crowd the mind, painfully as to sufferings en
dured, cheerlessly as to hope. The time wasted in Spain
seemed a blot in his existence, and then came the proba
bility of another long and exhausting probation, that, like
this, might lead to nothing. He had already reached the
lustrum that would fill his threescore years, and life seemed
slipping from beneath him, while its great object remained
unachieved. Still the high resolution of the man sustained
VOL. I, 11
122 , MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
him. Not once did he think of a compromise of what he
felt to be his rights not once did he doubt of the practi
cability of accomplishing the great enterprise that others
derided. His heart was full of courage even while his bo
som was full of grief. "There is a wise, a merciful, and
omnipotent God !" he exclaimed, raising his eyes to heaven.
" He knoweth what is meet for his own glory, and in him
do I put my trust." There was a pause, and the eyes kin
dled while a scarcely perceptible smile lighted the grave
face, and then were murmured the words " Yea, he taketh
his time, but the infidel shall be enlightened, arid the blessed
sepulchre redeemed !"
After this burst of feeling, that grave-looking man, whose
hairs had already become whitened to the colour of snow,
by cares, and toils, and exposures, pursued his way, with
the quiet dignity of one who believed that he was not cre
ated for nought, and who trusted in God for the fulfilment
of his destiny. If quivering sighs occasionally broke out
of his breast, they did not disturb the placidity of his vene
rable countenance ; if grief and disappointment still lay
heavy on his heart, they rested on a base that was able to
support them. Leaving Columbus to follow the common
mule-track across the Vega, we will now return to Santa
Fe, where Ferdinand arid Isabella had re-established their
court, after the few first days that succeeded the taking
possession of their new conquest.
Luis de St. Angel was a man of ardent feelings and gene
rous impulses. He was one of those few spirits who live